Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan’
Bodies of some of the women killed in the air strike – on the way to hospital morgue
At least eight women have died in a NATO air strike in Afghanistan’s eastern province of Laghman, local officials say…NATO has conceded that between five and eight civilians died as it targeted insurgents, and offered condolences.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai “strongly condemned” the deaths and has sent officials to the area to investigate…
Major Adam Wojack, a spokesman for the Isaf international forces, said between five and eight civilians could have been killed, and said an investigation was under way…
He told the BBC that a group of some 45 insurgents had been targeted by an ISAF unit, and many had been killed…
At least seven women were also reported to have been injured. Provincial health director Latif Qayumi said some of them injured were girls aged as young as 10.
The Laghman governor’s office said a number of civilians had gone to the mountains to collect wood and nuts from a forest in the Noarlam Saib valley, a common practice in the area…
In August, UN figures suggested the number of civilians killed and injured in the first half of 2012 had fallen 15% on the same period of 2011…Analysts said increased sensitivity on both sides about the impact of civilian deaths had led to more carefully targeted attacks.
In his statement, President Hamid Karzai expressed his “sorrow” over the incident, saying he “strongly condemns the airstrike by Nato forces which resulted in the deaths of eight women”.
I’m a supporter of risking technology in battle instead of human beings. The context of war and the politics that obviously have failed – leading to war – are a separate group of questions.
Regardless, the use of airborne technology demands information on the ground surpassing whatever it was that was used to justify this air strike. This wasn’t a latency problem lasting a few seconds at the speed of radio communications. This was someone making a decision based on inadequate data about civilians and Taliban in the same wooded area.
Either the rules of engagement must be ratcheted down to a level allowing for humanity – or information gathering has to improve. Results like this are unacceptable by any standard.
Congressional Republicans, resolute in their commitment to deny the Democrats anything that looks like an accomplishment in an election year, have spent the week obstructing passage of the Veterans Job Corps Act of 2012. It’s a perfectly inoffensive bill from Senator Patty Murray, the Washington Democrat, meant to increase hiring and job training for veterans, especially those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Who could oppose hiring more veterans as cops, firefighters and national-parks workers? Who could be against helping veterans apply their military training to earn civilian occupational licenses? The unemployment rate for new veterans hit nearly 11 percent in August, compared with 8.1 percent nationwide. Veterans and active-duty soldiers are committing suicide at alarming rates. The men and women who defend America in uniform are 1 percent of the population. Why shouldn’t the 99 percent give them a hand?
I’ll let the Republicans explain.
Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma says it is dishonorable and cowardly to help veterans find jobs when there are more important things (what?) to do…
Rand Paul of Kentucky went further, saying he would block the bill until Pakistan freed Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped the United States find Osama bin Laden…
Ms. Murray…has tried to make her bill as bipartisan as possible, by incorporating wholesale additions from Richard Burr, a North Carolina Republican. The Senate could have rallied behind this bill, shown its dedication to the troops, and been done with it by now. But Democrats will have to pass this bill the hard, slow way, with repeated large votes overcoming Republican procedural objections…Or it might be killed by Republicans committed to making a bigger point about honor, valor, sacrifice and obstruction.
There hasn’t been a bloc of cowards, bigots and liars so infesting Congress like poison maggots since the days of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee. A sleazy group of politicians about as unAmerican as they come.
The Party-formerly-known-as-Republican is out to raise the bar of those years of racism, reaction and indolence. Nothing concerns their stony little hearts more than opposing any legislation offered by our sort-of-Black president and members of his party. Even at the expense of screwing our veterans returning home to unemployment and diminished opportunities.
Opportunities diminished, I might add, courtesy of the previous batch of conservative ideologues.
Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith and her wife, Tracey Hepner
An Army officer being promoted to brigadier general openly acknowledged her homosexuality on Friday by having her wife pin her star to her uniform, thus becoming the first openly gay officer of flag rank in the United States military.
The officer, Brig. Gen. Tammy S. Smith, 49, a 26-year veteran of the Army, was promoted in a ceremony at the women’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. The star was affixed by Tracey Hepner, who was a co-founder last year of the Military Partners and Families Coalition, which “provides support, resources, education and advocacy for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender military partners and their families,” according to its Web site.
The Army said that General Smith was not available for an interview on Sunday. However, she said in a statement that the Defense Department had made sexual orientation a private matter, but that “participating with family in traditional ceremonies such as the promotion is both common and expected of a leader.”
Sue Fulton, a spokeswoman for OutServe, a two-year-old organization of lesbians and gay men in the military, said Sunday that it was “highly unlikely” that General Smith was the only gay officer of her rank. She called General Smith’s public acknowledgment significant.
“I would say that it’s important to recognize ‘the first,’ because then the next person doesn’t have to be first,” said Ms. Fulton, a 1980 West Point graduate. “Once we get over each ‘first,’ each hurdle of ‘Well, that’s never been done before,’ it makes it a nonissue going forward.”
As a colonel, General Smith was deployed in Afghanistan from December 2010 to October 2011 as the chief of Army Reserve Affairs. She currently serves in Washington as the deputy chief of the Army Reserve.
Overdue – and Sláinte!
Pentagon planners will consider adding bombers and attack submarines as part of a growing U.S. focus on security challenges in the Asia-Pacific…
“We will take another look” at sending more such muscle to the strategic hub of Guam in the western Pacific, now that this has been recommended by an independent review of U.S. regional military plans, Robert Scher, deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans, told lawmakers.
U.S. strategy calls for shifting military, diplomatic and economic resources toward the region after a decade of land wars in Iraq and Afghanistan sparked by the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon…and a lot of lies at the behest of Bush and Cheney.
The Defense Department, however, must weigh the issue from a broad global perspective and take into account competing requirements, Scher testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’ Armed Services subcommittee on readiness…
The central geostrategic uncertainty that the United States and its allies and partners face in the region “is how China’s growing power and influence will impact order and stability in the years ahead,” the CSIS review said.
All these shit-for-brains tin soldiers figure the American people are too damned dumb, too ignorant to stop another march into Asia carrying the American flag. They know they can count on an obedient Congress. So many of you who marched against the VietNam War have to remember that – eventually – the Bozos in Washington brought our troops home. That wasn’t voluntary on their part. They were afraid of losing control.
Fact remains, the rest of the world hasn’t forgotten what our policies bring to every region of the world we’ve made part of our garrison. We have over 700 bases in about 180 countries, right now. Even though brainwashed American taxpayers don’t raise a peep about the cost – the rest of the world looks offshore and views our warships as one more threat from the cops of the world.
I jokingly say I’m not voting for Obama; but, against Romney. I’m voting against the evil of two lessors. Obama talks like he has progressive ideals and delivers no more than any liberal ever has. That means Hillary probably would have done as much by the working people of the United States. And like Hillary – and Bill – none of these three have ever challenged the status quo on American foreign policy that has been in place since the beginning of the Cold War.
Nothing is more important around this little planet than making the world safe for Exxon-Mobil, not democracy. I could add all the variations on that theme; but, if you read and think, listen and learn to what really goes on in the political economy of Earth – you can come up with all the parallels yourself.
Don’t stop! Don’t stop fighting to press the self-proclaimed good guys into living up to the principles they lie about – just because we’re also busy fighting the truly criminal creeps at the same time. We cannot afford to let up. We do not need another Iraq. I do not want to see another VietNam.
As the United States trumpeted its success in persuading Pakistan to end its seven-month blockade of supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan, another group privately cheered its good fortune: the Taliban.
One of the Afghan war’s great ironies is that both NATO and the Taliban rely on the convoys to fuel their operations — a recipe for seemingly endless conflict.
The insurgents have earned millions of dollars from Afghan security firms that illegally paid them not to attack trucks making the perilous journey from Pakistan to coalition bases throughout Afghanistan — a practice the U.S. has tried to crack down on but admits likely still occurs.
Militants often target the convoys in Pakistan as well, but there have been far fewer reports of trucking companies paying off the insurgents, possibly because the route there is less vulnerable to attack…
“Stopping these supplies caused us real trouble,” a Taliban commander who leads about 60 insurgents in eastern Ghazni province told The Associated Press in an interview. “Earnings dropped down pretty badly. Therefore the rebellion was not as strong as we had planned.”
A second Taliban commander who controls several dozen fighters in southern Kandahar province said the money from security companies was a key source of financing for the insurgency, which uses it to pay fighters and buy weapons, ammunition and other supplies.
“We are able to make money in bundles,” the commander told the AP by telephone. “Therefore, the NATO supply is very important for us.”
“We have had to wait these past seven months for the supply lines to reopen and our income to start again,” said the Taliban commander in Ghazni. “Now work is back to normal.”
Does that give you a clear idea of what an exercise in futility this war is?
The suicide rate among the nation’s active-duty military personnel has spiked this year, eclipsing the number of troops dying in battle and on pace to set a record annual high since the start of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan more than a decade ago…
Suicides have increased even as the United States military has withdrawn from Iraq and stepped up efforts to provide mental health, drug and alcohol, and financial counseling services.
The military said Friday that there had been 154 suicides among active-duty troops through Thursday, a rate of nearly one each day this year…That number represents an 18 percent increase over the 130 active-duty military suicides for the same period in 2011. There were 123 suicides from January to early June in 2010, and 133 during that period in 2009, the Pentagon said.
By contrast, there were 124 American military fatalities in Afghanistan as of June 1 this year, according to the Pentagon…
In a letter to military commanders last month, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said that “suicide prevention is a leadership responsibility,” and added, “Commanders and supervisors cannot tolerate any actions that belittle, haze, humiliate or ostracize any individual, especially those who require or are responsibly seeking professional services.”
But veterans’ groups said Friday that the Pentagon had not done enough to moderate the tremendous stress under which combat troops live, including coping with multiple deployments…
Paul Rieckhoff, executive director of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, called suicides among active-duty military personnel “the tip of the iceberg.” He…attributed the rise in military suicides to too few qualified mental health professionals, aggravated by the stigma of receiving counseling and further compounded by family stresses and financial problems. The unemployment rate among military families is a particular problem, he said.
The best solution would be for our nation to walk away from “solving” every international question with death and destruction. Military hardware deployed around the world requires young men and women deployed around the world — doing the bidding of political chickenhawks and warlovers who think the best solution for any difficult question is war. Cripes, it’s not even the cheapest. For a nation that tries to resolve domestic questions with the lowest bidder – regardless of quality – you’d think stinginess alone would nudge our government to stop invading other countries every five or ten years.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a creepy opportunist like John McCain or a political intellectual like Barack Obama. Sticking with the robot response of American foreign policy for the last sixty years or so continues to escalate parallel patterns of self-destruction among our service personnel almost as rapidly as it exacerbates contempt for the United States among ordinary people in every other nation.
Alienation is still alienation. The results grow more deadly with the passage of time.
For two centuries, the United States Military Academy has produced generals for America’s wars, among them Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, George S. Patton and David H. Petraeus. It is where President George W. Bush delivered what became known as his pre-emption speech, which sought to justify the invasion of Iraq, and where President Obama told the nation he was sending an additional 30,000 American troops to Afghanistan.
Now at another critical moment in American military history, the faculty here on the commanding bend in the Hudson River is deep in its own existential debate. Narrowly, the argument is whether the counterinsurgency strategy used in Iraq and Afghanistan — the troop-heavy, time-intensive, expensive doctrine of trying to win over the locals by building roads, schools and government — is dead.
Broadly, the question is what the United States gained after a decade in two wars.
“Not much,” Col. Gian P. Gentile, the director of West Point’s military history program and the commander of a combat battalion in Baghdad in 2006, said flatly in an interview last week. “Certainly not worth the effort. In my view.”
Colonel Gentile, long a critic of counterinsurgency, represents one side of the divide at West Point. On the other is Col. Michael J. Meese, the head of the academy’s influential social sciences department and a top adviser to General Petraeus in Baghdad and Kabul when General Petraeus commanded the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Nobody should ever underestimate the costs and the risks involved with counterinsurgency, but neither should you take that off the table,” Colonel Meese said, also in an interview last week. Counterinsurgency, he said, “was broadly successful in being able to have the Iraqis govern themselves.”
You now know – from this point in the conversation forward, this is a flunky whose understanding is ruled by ideology and politics.
Taliban fighters have destroyed fields of opium poppies in eastern Afghanistan this spring, the first time since 2001 the hardline Islamist group is known to have clamped down on the cultivation of a drug that provides a big part of its funding.
While the insurgents appear to have dug up a relatively small area of poppies in a remote area near the border with Pakistan, the move was so unusual it won a chorus of praise from the Afghan government and international organisations, whom the Taliban consider their enemy, as well as senior clerics.
“They just did what the constitution ordered,” said Wasifullah Wasifi, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Kunar, where the eradication took place…
The country representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, confirmed that the Taliban had uprooted poppy fields in Kunar, and said he hoped the “rare event” might presage a stronger approach to controlling drug production…
Afghanistan has for years produced the vast majority of the world’s opium, with only a brief break in 2001 when the Taliban government, which had previously relied on the crop to bolster its coffers, unexpectedly dug up most of the country’s poppy fields.
But opium production has flourished since the group was toppled by US-backed forces in 2001, even though it has been widely condemned by clerics as un-Islamic…
Funds flow to insurgents and corrupt members of the government. The crop can also be a key source of income for poor farmers, who insurgents sometimes rely on for food, shelter, recruits or other support.
RTFA for lots of anecdotal description. It ain’t a big deal [yet] in terms of quantity. Politically, it’s startling our military “experts”.
The traders crouched beneath the walls of an old fort, hunkered down with the sheep and goats as they talked, eyes nervously flitting up from time to time at the blimp that has become their constant overseer.
“It is there every day except the days when it is windy and rainy,” said Suleman, 45, who goes by only one name.
“It watches us day and night,” said another trader, Mir Akbar, 18, his eyes following the balloon as its nose swiveled with the wind from east to west…
The dirigible, a white 117-foot-long surveillance balloon called an aerostat by the military, and scores more like it at almost every military base in the country, have become constant features of the skies over Kabul and Kandahar, and anywhere else American troops are concentrated or interested in…
In recent years, they have become part of a widening network of devices — drones, camera towers at military bases and a newer network of street-level closed-circuit cameras monitoring Kabul’s roads — that have allowed American and Afghan commanders to keep more eyes on more places where Americans are fighting.
The dirigibles are now such a common feature in daily Afghan life that some people here shrug and say they hardly notice them…But other Afghans describe a growing sense of oppression, the feeling that even as the Americans are starting to pack up to leave, the foreigners’ eyes will always be on them…
For others, the cameras are an outrageous intrusion into private lives, putting women and children on display for foreigners whom they see as immoral…
Playing with dogs at Nowzad
Spot made the clandestine journey from the Afghan Taliban stronghold of Helmand to the capital Kabul, where he is undergoing medical treatment before moving to the United States to live with the family of the Marine who rescued him.
His ears clipped and tail severed from his days as a fighting dog, the surprisingly docile ginger and white mutt is one of hundreds being adopted in increasing numbers by foreign soldiers, who pay vast sums to take their new pets home.
“Dogs have been proven to help post-traumatic stress and the soldiers who adopt them are addressing this,” said Pen Farthing, founder of British charity Nowzad, an animal shelter on the outskirts of Kabul.
A former Royal Marine, Farthing adopted his dog Nowzad, named after a Helmand district, during his tour there in 2006. He then set up the charity, where dogs and some cats are neutered and vaccinated against rabies before their journeys abroad…
“We’re seeing more soldier rescues than ever before. When you’re being shot at by the Taliban every day, dogs give you that little bit of normality,” Farthing said by a row of outdoor pens holding black and yellow puppies.
Nearby stood Dshka, an affectionate grey hound rescued by a U.S. Marine sergeant in Kajaki in Helmand, where British forces handed security to the U.S. in 2010 as part of the American troop surge. His neighbor, Poppy, a small black dog from Kandahar, will soon go to a British soldier’s home…
Workers at Nowzad are now hoping that Afghans will begin to adopt dogs, banking on a changing attitude to owning pets. Poverty prevents many Afghans from having dogs and cats at home, and some Muslims believe dogs are unclean and therefore unfit for keeping. Kabul is home to thousands of stray dogs, and many are shot and killed…
Afghan families are beginning to adopt dogs from Nowzad, they said, giving promise to the charity’s goal to become Afghan-led in the future.
One can only hope. And help when you can afford it.
In many ways this is a global battle worth fighting for. And it doesn’t require billions of dollars for bombs and bullets, rockets and rifles.